When Donnie Alecci and Rick Planamenta serve food at their Briarcliff facility, neither of them has to even look up in order to know that the ketchup and napkins need to be replaced.
"We've been doing this so long, it's like built into you, like a sixth sense," said Alecci, who caters events and runs the concession stand at the Briarcliff town pool along with Planamenta.
The two may be partners in business, but they could not look more different. Planamenta is bald while Alecci has a beard and hair like a pirate. Together they serve food at breakneck speeds, unfazed by crowds that sometimes can number in the thousands.
"Just stay focused," Planamenta said, explaining his motto.. "Don't think, don't blink, don't breathe, just do."
Many customers are drawn as much for the banter between Alecci and Planamenta as they are to their food. They were introduced through a mutual friend six years ago and have been inseparable ever since.
"It was at a corporate event with 600 people," Alecci recalled. "We didn't talk all night because we were so busy and I didn't have to talk because (Planamenta) knew what he was doing."
Planamenta had catered events for the Ossining Elks Lodge and also Lyndhurst Manor in Tarrytown before he met Alecci. When not working his food business , he is a motor equipment operator for the Town of Ossining's highway department.
Alecci got into the food business in the early 1980s with a hot dog stand that covered his college tuition. He worked at a pizzeria for a while in college, and then entered the grueling carnival circuit after graduating. One year he sold 6,000 pounds of turkey legs in four days to 250,000 people at the Ringling Brothers circus.
Alecci eventually got married and settled down in Briarcliff where he opened D&D Deli on North State Street. The deli required working from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, and after 10 years operating it, Alecci closed it down in 1993 in order to spend more time with his family. Catering was a natural next step because many deli customers continued to call Alecci at his home asking him to cater events.
Now Alecci and Planamenta cater barbeques and clam bakes for the Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, Archville, Pocantico and Ossining fire departments. They also cater corporate and family events, and their pool-side concession stand is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day every year.
"We're more blue collar," Alecci said. "We're about good food at reasonable prices. We're not so shi shi."
The Briarcliff concession stand sells "family-style" meals like hamburgers, french fries and a drink for $5 to $6. It also serves salads, chicken fingers, chicken nuggets and paninis.
"The parents are happy because they know they can give their kids money and they'll come back with change," Planamenta said.
When not catering, Alecci builds theater sets for Hudson Stage at Pace University and for Briarcliff High School. He also dreams up future plans with his catering buddy, such as a pastrami sandwich, cheesesteak and buffalo wing road trip, and a specialty catering service for funeral homes.
"We could have funnel-rolls," for funerals, he said.
Planamenta nodded at the idea.
"'In your time of need, we're here to feed,'" he joked. "Or, 'We catered the last supper.'"
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